Today, Next Century Cities jointly released a report with the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) that features an exciting model for how rural communities can provide Internet access for their residents. Entitled RS Fiber: Fertile Fields for new Rural Internet Cooperatives, the report focuses on the innovative model developed by communities in and Sibley County, Minnesota, to form a wireless and fiber optic cooperative. Local stakeholders featured in the report outline the benefits of using a cooperative approach to connect families and communities, while offering strategies for ensuring its success.

Winthrop, a small city in farming country and founding member of Next Century Cities, kicked off the effort by detailing then city manager Mark Erickson to improve Internet access in the region. Erickson, who has spoken at many Next Century Cities events, is now the Director of the Winthrop Economic Development Authority and focused on how to best use the new connectivity to benefit the community.

Next Century Cities is proud to jointly release this report, in hopes that this cooperative model could be replicated in communities throughout the nation, especially in harder to reach areas where traditional carriers are unlikely to  provide high-quality broadband service. We are excited about the potential for other communities to learn from and explore adapting this model to their specific needs in order to provide fast, affordable, and reliable Internet in their areas.

Be sure to check out the RF Fiber Report and this one-page Fact Sheet, as well as a podcast and video interviewFor more information, communities can contact Chris Mitchell, Next Century Cities’ Policy Director and Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at ILSR.